Social Media For Parents; Or, Why You Shouldn’t Be THAT Parent on Social Media

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Like most people, I have a complicated relationship with social media.

Forget the fact that I teach a Mass Media class; likewise, forget the fact that I used to get paid writing for a Buffalo Sabres fan site, and can thank Twitter for driving traffic to that site – the fact that I somewhat make money thanks to social media means nothing!  I must say that I do find value in social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and to a lesser extent, Instagram.  When used properly, Facebook allows me to remain connected with distant relatives, age-old friends, and former students; when approached with caution, Twitter provides easy access to breaking news and the opportunity to engage in conversation with people around the world.

Of course, there is the other side to social media – the ugly side that involves cyberbullying, the deliberate spread of misinformation, and all of the self-doubt that comes from looking at people create this fictional version of themselves, where everything about their lives is amazing and the bad stuff conveniently gets ignored.  At some point, I will get around to talking about all of these negatives, but right now, there is something that is bugging me so much that I have to put what are undoubtedly more serious issues aside so I can get this off of my chest:

There seems to be a significant increase in THOSE types of parents posting on social media, and it needs to stop.

You all know what I mean when I say THOSE types of parents: the ones who gush about how much they love their children; the mothers who post all of their children’s statistics after one good game (conveniently ignoring the ones in which their child did not perform particularly well); the dad who is constantly posting videos of kids kids practicing, or sharing that 10 second video highlighting the only good play his boy made that day; the mom who uploads photos of the local newspaper write-up that mentions her children; the mothers who change their profile pictures to photos of their kids; and so on.

(If it seems like I mentioned mothers more often than fathers in that previous paragraph – well duh.  Sorry ladies: I see way more moms using social media as propaganda promoting their kids than I see dads.)

Look: I have three kids, and when my oldest son first started playing sports and learning a musical instrument, there were moments when I was THIS CLOSE to becoming one of THOSE parents. If you scroll back far enough on my Facebook timeline, I am sure you can find posts in which I list how many goals he scored during a hockey game, and I know I bragged at least once about the score he received when performing on the trumpet at the annual NYSSMA festival.

However, it didn’t take me long to realize that what I was doing was ridiculous, childish, embarrassing, and toxic.  For starters, I almost always had one “rival” family in mind when I was posting these “triumphs,” meaning my posts were born from a desire to either one-up someone else’s child, or to prove someone else’s opinion about my boy wrong.

Not exactly good reasons to be posting on social media, right?

And before you try to argue that you are only posting your kid’s accomplishments on social media because you are proud of your son or daughter, I would like to remind you that pride is one of the seven deadly sins.  Also, bullshit – you have ulterior motives, just like I did.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s not like social media created bragging parents.  We all know dads who will spend hours chewing your ear off talking about how great his kid is, and parents have been force-feeding photos and stories of their kids into the faces of other parents since who-knows-when.  The thing is, most of us realize how stupid the dad running his mouth at every sporting event sounds, so we distance ourselves from parents like that and mostly keep ourselves from becoming like them.  Promoting our kids on social media, however, comes across as the norm – everyone is doing it, right?  Plus, it’s not like we are MAKING anyone look at our posts; unlike that dad who sidles up to us during a game and talks incessantly about his kid whether we want him to or not, we don’t force our Facebook and Instagram posts on anyone.  Hell, those people chose to follow us!   Why not load up our timeline with success stories?

And that right there is the problem with social media: because it is non-evasive, it lowers our inhibitions and allows us – I would actually say, encourages us – to use the media as propaganda for our lives: Look at my wonderful life!  See how amazing and talented my kids are!  Bet you wish you could be like us!  So tempting . . . and so toxic.

So what can you do – how can you manage to share some of your family’s successes in a way that doesn’t foster resentment and create rivalries that don’t need to be there?   For one, when it comes to team sports, group activities, etc., you should focus on the success of the team or group, not on your child.  I take to social media when one of my kid’s teams wins a tournament, a playoff game, etc. I don’t mention my kid’s accomplishments – no discussions of goals, assists, home runs, strikeouts earned while pitching, etc.  Instead, I focus on the team’s accomplishments – hard work, overcoming adversity, mounting a late comeback, and so on.   Taking this approach allows me to celebrate success in a way that doesn’t foster resentment from the other families who have children on the team.

And please: spare us from sharing a photograph of the local newspaper write-up.  You might claim that this is a way of celebrating the success of the team, but I guarantee that 99% of the parents who share these write-ups are only doing so when their kids are mentioned.  Listen: your kid getting his or her name in the local newspaper doesn’t mean jack shit.  If we wanted that information, we would grab the newspaper ourselves.  Colleges are not checking your Facebook page in order to recruit your child, so go ahead and put your scrapbook together, but keep it private, like it should be.

But what if your child participates in activities that require him or her to fly solo?  Or what if your child receives a really cool award given out by the coach of a team?   That’s all well and good . . . but keep it to yourself, or make your social media post so vague that it doesn’t inspire parents to start seeing how their own kids stack up.  There is zero reason for you to tell all of your Facebook friends that your son was awarded the Most Improved Player award on his hockey team, or that your daughter received a perfect score on her flute solo at a music festival.  Don’t tell me that you have friends and family that live far away who need to know about these accomplishments – send them a text, or better yet, let your kid make a few phone calls to spread the good news.  No one blasts these ultimately insignificant accomplishments out to hundreds of people simply because we want a few aunts and uncles to be in the loop; it’s boasting, pure and simple.  Grow up: all of us had these tiny victories in life, and the only people who ever gave a crap were our inner circle. Stop using social media to make your kid seem like the next great musician, or a future professional athlete, or someone destined to be on Broadway.  Odds are, it ain’t gonna happen.

If it seems like I am telling you that there is never a good time to trumpet your children’s accomplishments on social media . . . well duh: that’s my point.   If your kids are really smart, or really talented, we will ultimately hear about them.  Celebrate their success at home, and use social media to promote teamwork, citizenship, and all the things this country needs way more than individual accolades.  Better yet: get a life.  The more time you spend talking about your kids on Facebook, the less time you are spending interacting with them in the first place.



Deadpool 2: Exciting, Funny . . . And Sort Of, Kind Of Disappointing?

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Well, I finally got my busy ass to the theaters to see Deadpool 2!  

After failing to see the original Deadpool in theaters, I was determined not to make the same mistake twice.  Even though I was not fortunate enough to catch Ryan Reynolds and company in the newest entry of the Merc With a Mouth’s on-screen saga, my wife and I managed to leave the two younger children with Nana and grandpa so we could take our twelve-year-old to the 9:40 showing at Destiny USA this Sunday.

Let’s start by saying that everyone – my wife included – enjoyed the flick.  Casting Reynolds as Wade Wilson was nothing short of a stroke of genius, and with the exception of T.J. Miller (who I prefer to hear, not see), the rest of the cast in the Deadpool films have managed to nail their parts just as well.  When you have cast of characters who not only perfectly fit their roles, but are obviously having the times of their lives playing said characters, you are halfway to an enjoyable movie, before filming even begins.

Of course, even a fantastic cast needs a script that is at least partly coherent, and for the most part, Deadpool 2 delivers here, too.  This film has more jokes than you can shake a chimichanga at, and plenty of exciting action set pieces, too.  I don’t want to get into a debate over which franchise, Guardians of the Galaxy or Deadpool, is better at blending humor with action, but if Deadpool is not the funniest comic book movie franchise, it sure as hell is a close second.  Not every joke works, but there are enough that do to keep you from worrying about the few that missed their marks.

So if the movie has a pitch-perfect cast, enjoyable action moments, tons of jokes, and a kick-ass soundtrack (a factor that you can not overlook these days!), what in the hell gives me the right to call the flick a bit of a disappointment?  That’s easy: the love story.

I’m not saying there is no room for a love interest in the Deadpool movie franchise – it worked just fine in the first movie.  In this sequel, however, I felt TOO much time was devoted to Wade’s attempts to reunite with Vanessa.   It really slows the movie down, especially in the first third, and for a film that wants to break the fourth wall and be unconventional, the love story written into this movie is as about as conventional as it gets.   Just compare how the first film handled Wade’s relationship with Vanessa to how much more serious and . . . ugh . . . romantic Wade’s scenes with Vanessa are in this one.  That kind of vibe might fit in the Spider-Man films when we are talking about Peter Parker and Mary Jane, but in Deadpool 2 it felt more like a studio demand and less like an organic component of the story.

Don’t get me wrong: I love Vanessa’s character, and I understand that what happens to her in the movie is what shapes Wade’s story arc . . . but damn it, the scenes with her in it slog down this movie.  And given how the movie resolves her fate in the end credits, it seems entirely unnecessary to devote so much time to this part of the story.

Some people will argue with me, of course, and that is why I write this and you don’t, because you are all wrong, ha ha!   My concerns over the drawn-out and overly-serious nature of the romance certainly do not cripple my opinion of the movie – it’s still entertaining as hell, even if I was disappointed with how safe it played it with the Vanessa angle.  If you liked the first Deadpool you should obviously see this one, and even if you have not seen the original but are looking for a good time at the movies, you can’t go wrong with Deadpool 2.   Besides: any movie that has the balls to kill off two of the most popular actors on the planet who made brief cameo appearances gets two thumbs up in my book!


Video Games

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Blackout Mode Has Me Pumped!

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I have already written in some depth about my complicated relationship with Epic Games’ smash hit, Fortnite: Battle Royale.  It’s the most talked-about game in America (maybe the world?) right now, and I appreciate the amount of content Epic Games provides the community with their weekly updates . . . but in my opinion, the game is super over-hyped, and is trying too hard with its “Everything and the Kitchen Sink” approach

Maybe not a popular opinion, but sue me: it’s mine!

I have given PUBG’s Battlegrounds some time on my Xbox One S, but that game is still quite rough around the edges, unlike Fortnite, which is pretty polished for a game that is still in beta.  Right now, then, when I feel like playing a battle royale-style game, I am pretty much stuck with Fortnite . . . but there is hope right around the corner for someone like me, courtesy of Treyarch studio’s upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops 4.

For starters, I still don’t feel as comfortable with third-person shooters.  I was terrible at all of the SOCOM games, never did that great in Gears of War multiplayer, and just generally don’t feel confident in Battle Royale firefights.  (Same goes for me when I am playing third person in Battlegrounds, which is why I almost never do that!)

On the other hand, I perform much better in first-person shooters, so automatically I feel like my odds of being successful in Blackout are much better than in Fortnite: Battle Royale.   Having played every version of Black Ops also helps, since I am pretty sure Treyarch will roll with the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset, meaning returning players will feel right at home.

Another reason I feel good about my odds?  No building.  I cannot tell you how many firefights I have lost in Fortnite: Battle Royale because I was outbuilt.  I get it: building is a huge part of the game.  I’m not complaining or suggesting Epic Games provide a no-building mode.  I’m just stating a fact: I suck at building in the heat of the moment, and I don’t have enough time to practice.  So give me a battle royale mode without building, and I’m in like Flynn!

Of course, the biggest reason I am stoked about this mode: vehicles. I enjoy ripping around the Battlegrounds map in a car or boat, but if Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 allows us to hop into choppers and airplanes, lookout!  That would be wild, although I cannot decided whether I am more excited about the possibility of being able to take to the sky, or knock someone from the day courtesy of a well-placed RPG.  Decisions, decisions!

All in all, I am really looking forward to this release. Check out the trailer for Call of Duty’s first entry in the battle royale genre, and tell me what you think!




Video Games

Fortnite is Getting Jetpacks and I Just Don’t Know About This!

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If rumors are to be believed – and if I have learned anything in my 46 years on this planet, it is that you should ALWAYS believe in rumors! – then jetpacks will be making an appearance in the so-popular-you-would-think-it’s-good game Fortnite: Battle Royale.

I am not here to speculate on whether this item actually will be available in the game – this is not the first time jetpacks have been teased, so you know they are coming eventually – and I don’t plan on guessing if they will be a permanent or temporary addition.

Nah – I’m just here to pull one of these:

It could just be me – maybe I am the only one who finds Battle Royale to be fun, but not worth the hype. I mean, in all honesty, I get way more enjoyment out of playing Overwatch or Call of Duty: WWII. Even Titanfall 2 gave me way more entertainment value than Battle Royale, although I absolutely commend Epic Games for consistently trying to provide variety, in terms of both gameplay and cosmetic items.

It could be the repetitive nature of the game – whether you are playing solo, duo, squad, or one of the limited-time only modes, you find yourself on the same map trying to accomplish the exact same objective every single time – and I am sure my kids will argue that the fact that I am just an average Battle Royale player has something to do with my refusal to justify people playing this game for ten hours straight (although to be honest, when it comes to first person shooters I have always been one of those good-but-not-great kind of players).

Whatever the reason, I am just a casual fan of Fortnite: Battle Royale, and actually feel LESS inclined to play the game the more they tinker with it. The “everything and kitchen sink” approach the developers take with the game might make the writers over at Polygon and Kotaku gush about how amazing the game is, but it sort of makes me want to play less, if we’re being honest. That feeling started with the addition of remote-controlled rockets (which have since been removed) and culminated with the Infinity Gauntlet mode, which really added nothing to the game for me and was the sort of cheap promotional stunt that would have made everyone cringe if a less popular game had attempted it.

Now we’re getting jetpacks, because . . . I don’t know. There really is nothing about the world of Fortnite: Battle Royale that would explain the inclusion of jetpacks, and the recent meteor shower that kicked off season 4 has given players the ability to bust out some gravity-defying jumps (and even these don’t really need to be in the game, but hey: superheroes!), so why do we need jetpacks now?

Because . . . jetpacks!

I’m all for new, free content, but I cannot be the only one who would rather see some new maps and different game modes instead of little gimmicks like jetpacks. For example: why not a melee-weapons only mode, which would definitely make the game feel more Hunger Games-ish? Or, if Epic Games wants to tease the superhero theme in Season 4, why not actually provide a super-hero mode in which players can either use futuristic weapons or actually develop super powers for a limited time only? Any of those tweaks would make more sense, and fit the game world better, than simply throwing jetpacks into the mix because hey . . . jetpacks!


Deadpool 2 Officially Has The Best Marketing Stunt In Movie History

Here’s the scene:

After a busy day of work, getting kids to soccer practice, and watching my oldest play baseball, I took two of the kids to Walmart.  Our mission was simple: secure a 4K Ultra HD copy of Marvel’s Black Panther.

Unfortunately, Walmart was sold out of the 4K version, which shocked the hell out of me.  I knew the movie would fly off the shelves, but around where I live, 4K is still not a massive hit.  I have never gone to purchase a new movie and found less than 10 copies of the 4K edition in stock, so my brain literally could not process the empty rows that had held Black Panther on 4K Ultra HD.  Instead of seeing the store was out of stock and doing what a normal person would do – leave – I spent a few extra minutes desperately searching for a 4K version, looking behind the regular Blu-Rays and even behind, below, and on top of the other Blu-rays and DVDs in the movie section, just in case someone had put the movie down, if a kid had knocked one out of place by accident, etc.

Essentially, I turned into the movie nerd equivalent of a junkie crawling around a dirty floor on his hands and knees, looking for some leftover cocaine or whatever the hell those losers are addicted to . . . and as ridiculous as I might have looked at the time, I am super glad I did not just leave, or else I would not have stumbled across the most brilliant marketing scheme I have ever seen in my Whole.  Damn.  Life.

Initially, the stunt went right over my head.  See, last week Walmart had one entire side of a rack of movies devoted to Blu-rays from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Pretty every movie since the original Iron Man was on display with brand new cover art, an obvious attempt to cash in on the Avengers: Infinity War craze.  Last night, that display had been relocated, and in its place was a collection of Blu-Rays distributed by 20th Century Fox, including all the movies in the X-Men Franchise and the first Deadpool movie.

At first glance, my brain recognized the covers of X-Men: Days of Future Past and X-Men: Apocalypse, so I kept looking for Black Panther . . . and then my brain realized that there was something off about the cover of X-Men: Apocalypse, so I went back for a closer look.  Here is what I saw (give or take – this Tweet isn’t mine but the display I saw is almost identical):

That’s right: the geniuses in charge of promoting Deadpool 2 decided to revamp the cover art of classic 20th Century Fox titles in order to feature the Merc with a Mouth.  Instead of seeing the face of Apocalypse, then, I had actually seen Deadpool, but my brain had not registered it because it happened so fast.  The same goes for Days of Future Past . . . and Logan . . . and Terminator . . . and Castaway and Fight Club and so on and so forth in what is THE GREATEST MARKETING STUNT EVER.

Hyperbole?  I think not.  Prove me wrong in the comment section below, but don’t expect me to answer, because you’re wrong and I still have a 4k Ultra HD copy of Black Panther to track down.

Video Games

Marvel’s Spider-Man is a PS4 Exclusive So Of Course Now I Have To Get a PS4

There’s a new Spider-Man coming to video game consoles this year!  I cannot wait to pop that disc into my Xbox One X and enjoy the webslinger in 4k glory and . . . wait.

What’s that you say – it’s a Playstation 4 exclusive?

Damn it all to hell.

Over spring break, my wife and I surprised the kids by taking them to New York City. with one of our* highlights being our visit to the Microsoft Store on Fifth Ave.

*My wife and daughter not included

The boys and I spend close to an hour in the Microsoft Store, and came THIS close to walking out of the store with an Xbox One X.  Had it not been for the fact that I would have had to carry that box around the city for the next eight hours, I probably would have pulled the trigger on the purchase; instead, I opted to wait, knowing that I could probably score some kind of deal around the holidays.

So even when the new PlayStation-exclusive God of War came out and received phenomenal reviews, I wasn’t too worried.  Sure, it sounds like a game I would play, and my oldest son has expressed an interest.  Still, we have no shortage of titles that we want to play, and to be honest, outside of Destiny (whose single player campaign was ridiculously short), the last time I completed a single player campaign for a video game was . . . hmmm . . . hold on, it will come to me!

Honestly, I used to own a PS3 and I enjoyed it, but ever since I traded that it and decided to commit to Xbox, my family and I have had zero complaints.  All I really have time for any more are games I can hop into and play for 30 minutes at a time.  The same goes for my boys; we limit how much time they get, so they mostly stick with multiplayer games because it sucks to play a game with a story when you find yourself constantly having to stop before you have even completed a level.   There is never a shortage of multiplayer-heavy games to play, and even though PlayStation does get some exclusive titles, they have never had one that was important enough BY ITSELF to make me regret my decision to pass up a PS4 and snag a second Xbox One . . . until now.

There’s just something about Spider-Man that is impossible for my family to resist (and by “my family” I mostly mean “me”).    My infatuation with the web slinger is well-documented (just ask me how I broke my arm in kindergarten!), so the appeal of playing as him in video game form is too much for me to resist.  Check out the gameplay footage below of Insomniac’s upcoming Marvel’s Spider-Man and I’m sure you’ll agree: this game looks sick.  Guess I’ll be paying closer attention to PS4 deals from here on out!

Video Games

Destiny 2: Warmind DLC is Available . . . And I Could Care Less

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Say what you will about the original Destiny, but my boys and I loved that game.

We’re not blind fanboys: we know it had its faults. The single player campaign never had a story worth a damn until The Taken King DLC hit, the original voice acting for your ghost was cringe-worthy, your character never speaks a word, personalizing your characters was extremely limited – it was not a perfect game, by any stretch.

However, Destiny did one thing really well: it made shooting guns SO MUCH FUN.  Seriously, the game play mechanics for the original Destiny were so solid, and the weapons were so interesting, that shooting enemies and other players in the Crucible never got old.    You would have to go back to my college days to find a video game that I invested as much time in as I did for Destiny; I mean, I would literally go home and play during lunch every single time the Iron Banner returned, and it was the ONLY game I played for months.

As for the two boys, Destiny is the first FPS that I allowed them to play, as it is bloodless and mostly involves shooting aliens and monsters, instead of human beings.  (And even when you do shoot players in the Crucible, their body just drops, so that’s how I justify the violence – don’t judge me!)   My twelve year-old owned a titan who was ALMOST as powerful as my hunter, while my seven year-old used a warlock to navigate about half of the campaign and some games in the Crucible.

Yep: many hours in the Spalding household were spent playing Destiny, so naturally, when Destiny 2 came out I pre-ordered it, played it, and . . . stopped.  I’m not sure if either of the boys got through the campaign, and I know for a fact that neither of them has spent even one second working through the Curse of Osiris DLC.  Hell, even I didn’t complete the campaign for Curse of Osiris, and believe me: it kills me to say that.  I rarely purchase DLC for games, and to drop $19.99 on DLC that I abandoned with a week?   Literally NEVER HAPPENED . . . before Destiny 2, of course.

The list of problems I have with Destiny 2 is too long to go into here, so let’s just say that the game failed to improve on the original’s weaknesses AND managed to weaken the Crucible, which was easily the best part of the first game, IMO.   Bungie has taken some steps toward making Destiny 2 a more enjoyable experience – making the Crucible 6v6 instead of 4v4, finally including ranked play in the Crucible, and adding the new Escalation Protocol mode, among other things – and recently released the new Warmind DLC.

And I still don’t care.

I had high hopes for the Destiny franchise, and there is still I chance might get back into it down the road.  It had such potential . . . but looking at the reviews for Warmind it seems as if Bungie still has not quite gotten the message.  With games like Titanfall 2, Overwatch and Rainbow Six Siege handing out free DLC in order to keep fans engaged, and the insanely popular Fortnite: Battle Royale providing new game modes and customization options weekly, you would think Bungie would realize that if you are going to charge people twenty bucks for each DLC, you better be giving gamers a serious chunk of new content to sift through.  Instead, they are giving players a campaign that you can blow through in less than three hours, filled with the same bad guys we have been fighting since day one.

Aside from a few new maps in the Crucible, and some secrets to unlock in a new public space – you know, the sort of stuff we should be getting for free in the first place – Warmind is the sort of disappointing, over-priced DLC Bungie churned out for the first Destiny, until they finally gave us The Taken King, which was actually worth the price.  As much as I was hoping Bungie would give me a reason to reinstall Destiny 2 on my Xbox One S, I’m going to pass on this DLC and keep paying games like Fortnite, Surviving Mars and Sea of Thieves, with a little PUBG mixed in.  Better luck next time, Bungie.